As indie filmmakers and distributors grumble about the lack of exhibition options still open, there is a new exhibition space on the scene in New York City that has countered the downsizing trend. In an era where one can watch films on subways, the gym, in bed, or virtually anywhere, theatrical distribution is still considered the zenith for many filmmakers, not to mention that the coveted cinema release is tied to reviews, word-of-mouth, and revenue.
Across the river in Brooklyn, Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass – AKA DUMBO – lies the reRun theater, tucked behind the neighborhood’s restaurant reBar, a gastropub located on the ground floors of an office building. A number of great features make reRun unique, not the least of which is the bar nestled next to the audience. The proprietor, Jason Stevens, has designed a space that runs with a drive-in theme. The audience sits on old minivan back seats, in a stadium-style configuration. The lights above the bar are made out of hubcaps, and choices for beer include Checker Cab Blond Ale and an Oil Can stout. And, old car parts are scattered around the space to accent that drive-in feel.
But not all of reRun’s personality is purely drive-in. The popcorn comes flavored with gourmet options — one choice offers drizzled bacon fat and another, duck fat – bring on that delicious fat… The restaurant’s chefs Jeremy Leech and Sarah Reilein have developed an entire menu of movie snacks that far outdo Sno-Caps and Raisenettes.
Film fans should also note: reRun is giving films that have hit the end of their festival run, and are currently sans a distribution plan, a chance to be seen on the big screen once again for those who didn’t catch them on the fest circuit.
For Aaron Hillis, the film critic and distributor currently charged with curating the space, who has been given a unique chance to exhibit films that aren’t getting a chance elsewhere, it is a rare opportunity to celebrate and exhibit work that is not easy to find.
“I’ve been able to get undistributed films that have either floundered or have ended their film festival circuit run, [and] I’ve been able to get them reviews in big publications, in the trades. As a film critic, I see plenty of films that have plenty of merit, but there just isn’t a place for it. It allows me to scoop up these films, especially if they’re undistributed, [and] with only sixty seats, it allows me to take greater risks there. I’ve been too many an opening night for a well-received, well-reviewed indie film, and there’s nobody there.”
Hillis also noted the space could offer other options for artists hoping to show their work. “It gives filmmakers the opportunity to get more distribution or to get played in other cities. I’m gonna be doing more than just undistributed indies – some one-offs. I hope to be working with the bigger indie distributors, and do some day-and-date stuff as well as more and more repertory cinema and whacked out crazy-ass films that no one is taking a chance on. With a theater that’s already fun, it gives me the leeway to be bolder in my programming.”
But, the not-so-hidden plus of a theater like reRun is the ease with which one can eat, drink, and be merry all the while taking in a film. Hillis recounted the story of one distributor who came out to see a debut of his film at the space and expressed pleasant surprise with the turn-out. “He came in to check out the premiere of his movie and was shocked at how many people came just because of the space, not knowing what the movie was. While the programming is more designed for film buffs, the space allows those attracted by the unique viewing experience the opportunity to branch out of their viewing comfort zones.”
Noting that reRun has gotten “nothing but great responses,” Hillis made the game plan clear: “There’s no Alamo Drafthouse [a local chain of Austin, TX eat-drink-view theaters] in New York, and there’s no longer a Pioneer theater [former East Village theater that played niche films]. This is the happy medium between both of those.”
And what does Hillis have to say to others who may be looking to emulate a similar model? “For reRun, it’s a bar/restaurant that’s showing movies in the back. I don’t know how easy it is to do in other cities. But the adult experience of having liquor on hand… With a space like this, I have to think about what movie will be good for someone who’s half-loaded. Find the B-movies, the exploitation films, the cult films and cherry pick what’s actually good within that. I don’t know how much it’s a universally sustainable business model for others in other markets, but I want to encourage entrepreneurs to try and combine film and beer, for sure.”